In times of turmoil when life just doesn’t seem to be going our way, it’s funny how many of us will turn to the familiar sounds of our childhoods to seek comfort in the memories of days gone by.
As a band who first burst onto the scene back in the late 1990’s, at a time when a new wave of upcoming artists where taking over the world – tackling taboos, breaking rules and challenging the patriarchy, American rockers Lit are back to recapture that playful, rebellious spirit of life pre the internet, pre social media and pre the pandemic, with the release of their new album, ‘Tastes Like Gold’.
“There’s almost a feeling of reassurance in revisiting the music you grew up listening to isn’t there?” the bands frontman Ajay Popoff tells us from his hotel room in Swansea, where he and brother Jeremy are enjoying a day off from their U.K. tour with Bowling For Soup. “When we came out, it was a very exciting time in music; there was this energy and vibrancy that sort of swept around the world. I think in 2022, after everything we’ve all been through, that euphoric feeling is maybe what a lot of people are missing right now.”
Nodding in agreement Jeremy continues: “So with this new record, we wanted to go back in time almost, and reconnect with the mindset we had 25 years ago when we were writing the songs that ultimately go onto become our debut album.”
“Like Ajay said, there was a vibe we had going on back then, a vibe that people really seemed to latch onto, especially during our ‘A Place In The Sun’ and ‘Atomic’ eras, so when the time came to start working on new material for this project, we made a conscious effort to go back to our roots and try to recapture that spark that made us who we were all those years ago.”
Acknowledging the potential dangers of appearing like caricatures of their former selves, by choosing to return to the origins of the punk/rock/pop sound that first made them stars exactly 25 years ago, Jeremy is quick to add: “I will say though, as much as we wanted to recapture the true essence of Lit, we were also very conscious that we didn’t want the new material to feel dated, or come across like we were desperately trying to imitate ourselves or our old sound, so we brought on board a bunch of new, younger producers who we felt could incorporate some new tricks into the production of the tracks to help keep things fresh and exciting, not just for us, but for our fans as well.”
A perfect example of the bands new, revitalised sound arrives in the form of their most recent single ‘Kicked Off The Plane’ – an anthemic, rock riot that Ajay tells us was inspired by a series of true life events…
“It’s a very autobiographical song I’ll say that (laughs). We actually already had the foundations of the song locked in, but we weren’t sure of what direction it was going to take. Then we experienced somewhat of an unfortunate incident in Chicago on a layover, which we thought would make a cool concept, so that’s what inspired the lyric.”
Interjecting, Jeremy quips: “Can I just make it clear, we weren’t doing anything wrong or being assholes, that’s not why we got kicked off the plane (laughs). I don’t want you to get the wrong idea and be picturing that there was this big dramatic incident! We maybe don’t have the time to really get into it, but I just want to make it known, we weren’t arrested or anything like that (laughs).”
Kicked Off The Plane (Lyric Video)
Playful in both its message and sound, the track serves as a brilliant reminder of the bands ability to write quirky, tongue-in-cheek lyrics that provide a form of light relief and reverie for listeners, desperate to escape and forget the perils of everyday life. With all of the darkness and torment people have faced over the course of the last two years, we wonder was it a conscious decision on the groups behalf to not get too deep this time around.
“Lyrically I think our goal was to keep things light.” Jeremy admits. “We didn’t want to go down the route of being dark or depressing because I think everyone’s had enough of hearing about viruses, lockdowns and politics, they don’t need to hear us singing about those things too (laughs). Again, going back to what we talked about before in terms of revisiting the DNA of our original sound, we kind of did the same when it came to our songwriting.
Explaining further, the California native adds: “Back then we wrote about girls, drinking and cars, and whilst we knew we couldn’t necessarily talk about those same things again, we also felt that we didn’t want or need to reinvent the wheel too much either.”
“When you listen to a song like ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ the reason why I believe it’s still so popular and resonates with people today is because there’s nothing in it that stamps any sort of time clock on it! It has a universal theme that can apply to a Wednesday as much as a Sunday, and it appeals to people in 2022, in the same way it did back in the 1990’s… it’s dare I say it, timeless! Which is what every songwriter wants to their music to be.”
“It’s less about what we have to say and how we want people to feel.” Ajay concedes. “That’s not to say there isn’t the odd track on there that isn’t going to touch our fans or make them feel a certain something – we still love the idea of capturing an emotion and marrying it with a melody, so there are definitely some heartfelt, introspective moments on the record too.”
“We approach making a record the same way we do when coming up with a setlist for our live shows. We like to come out swinging and hit you with something big, and we close the gig in the same way, but in between there’s got to be those moments where we take it down a notch and give the fans that moment to think or feel something; its about taking your audience on a ride.”
“We made a conscious effort to go back to our roots, and try to recapture that spark that made us who we were all those years ago.”Jeremy on how reflecting on the past, help to shape the future sound of the bands new record.
Whilst both Ajay and Jeremy clearly relish, and enjoy the process of creating music for fans both old and new, we’re intrigued to know if the brothers developed a deeper appreciation for their job throughout the course of the pandemic, and if having that creative outlet provided them with a life line of sorts, when their world came to a standstill as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Yeah, for sure.” Jeremy says without hesitation. “Traditionally our lives are pretty hectic, and well planned out in a way that because we’ve been on this treadmill of writing, recording to touring for a good chunk of the last 25 years, everything has to be organised, and we need to have a schedule in place. So to have a long period of time-out from all of that, and to not be constantly on the road, I think we did find that making music became even more of an important creative outlet and release for us.”
“Having said that…” Ajay chimes in. “When we are in the throws of making an album, it’s pretty normal for us to be holed in a studio somewhere, hidden away from the rest of the world for a considerable amount of time, so the lockdowns we went through in 2020 thankfully, weren’t too taxing for us as we’re pretty used to living like hermits (laughs). That being said, we’ve loved being out here, on tour in the U.K. again with Bowling For Soup, and it’s made us super pumped to get back to the states for the start of our own tour this spring!”
Set to kick off in Flint, Michigan on Wednesday, May 4th Lit’s spring tour, dubbed “Spring Loaded” will see the band play 14 shows across the US including a date at (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York City on May 10th, before wrapping up in the groups hometown of Anaheim, CA at House of Blues on June 17th. Tickets are on sale now.
“It’s going to be a high-energy, rock ’n’ roll show.” Jeremy says of the upcoming tour. “We’re not planning on straying too far from what we’ve always done, we just want to create an unforgettable experience for our fans that we hope they enjoy and remember for years to come… that said, we do have a few new toys that we’re excited to play with and share! We have a new Lit backdrop, and a couple of machines that shoot out smoke and fire and things, so that will add a fun element to the show I’m sure (laughs).”
Laughing at the prospect of having to dodge both fire and smoke whilst performing, Ajay adds thoughtfully: “I believe that whenever we’re together as ‘Lit’, we create this great energy that radiates from the stage into the audience, and I think to still be able to do that after 25 years is pretty awesome.”
There’s no denying that 25 years is a significant amount of time to dedicate to pursuing a dream, and as the siblings look back on the the journey they’ve taken together over the course of the last two decades, it’s clear that everything they’ve experienced and achieved so far, has played a huge part in shaping the men they are today.
“It’s just been like living out an endless dream… and I hope we never wake up!” Ajay laughs. “On a personal level I’m so glad that we broke out when we did, and that we got to do some of the same things we watched our favourite bands doing. Like be go TRL or do MTV’s Spring Break, and then come over here to the U.K. and catch the tale end of your iconic shows like Top of The Pops and The Big Breakfast… man we had so much fun, I love that we debuted in that era, pre the internet.”
Smiling in agreement, Jeremy says: “We’re so grateful that someone took a chance on us 25 years ago, and that the music we made crossed over and connected with people in the way it did. We cannot thank our fans enough, we don’t ever take their support for granted for a single second. We’ve been so blessed, and we know that… we could have never believed any of this, its been an incredible ride!”
Wrapping things up, Ajay concludes: “We’re so appreciative of everything we’ve done; we feel like we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve… but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped dreaming! Absolutely not, because once you stop dreaming, that’s when it’s over – you’ve got to keep striving and be hungry for success.”